Toll Insight spoke with Jacqueline Erhart, Team Leader for Cooperative, Connected and Automated Driving and Digital Infrastructure at ASFINAG.
ASFINAG (short in English for "Autobahn and highway financing stock corporation") is an Austrian, publicly owned corporation which plans, finances, builds, maintains, and collects tolls for the Austrian autobahns. ASFINAG is fully owned by the Austrian government under the responsibility of the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.
1. Please tell us about the Austrian highway and toll company, ASFINAG.
ASFINAG is Austria’s infrastructure operator for highways. Founded in 1982, ASFINAG is responsible for tolling on the entire Austrian highway network, which spans more than 1,400 miles. The company has 2,900 employees, nine 24/7 Traffic Management Centers with 110 operators, forty-two highway maintenance departments, more than 5,000 bridges as well as 166 tunnels. The tunnels, with an overall length of more than 240 miles, are equipped with cameras, sound sensors, emergency telephones, fire extinguishing systems, escape route markings and lights.
By employing new technologies and innovation, ASFINAG aims to make Austria's highways the safest in Europe.
2. Please tell us about the toll fare structure that is utilized in Austria, including how a vignette works.
Austria has different toll systems depending on the maximum permitted weight and additional locally limited mark-ups.
Since 1997, all cars, motorbikes and camper vans up to 3.5 tons Maximum Permitted Weight (MPV) must properly display a time-dependent toll sticker or have purchased online a digital vignette when they drive onto a highway. The digital alternative to the adhesive vignette has been available since 2018. Unlike its analogue sister, the digital vignette is bound to the license plate and offers greater convenience for holders of transferable number plates. For those who want to continue to use a physical item, of course, the adhesive toll sticker is still available. Last year, 27 million vignettes were sold overall, with every second yearly toll sticker being digital.
On alpine crossings that are costly to construct, additional toll rates are applied. The route toll tickets (single trip or annual passes) can either be paid for in cash, by debit / credit card or via several fuel cards directly at the toll station. Payment can also be made in advance online by purchasing a video-based toll card. Since 2020, there is also a free flow system with the advantage of passing through the toll stations without delay. To visually draw attention of road users to this new feature, new digital toll lanes are marked green and feature the ticket symbol.
For heavy good vehicles and buses, a mileage-based toll applies. The technology is based on Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) as standardized by the Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN), and the rates depend, among other things, on the number of axles, the number of kilometers driven and the vehicle's Euro emission class. The toll road network is therefore divided into individual toll sections. In each section, there is a toll gantry with communication equipment. When vehicles pass underneath a gantry, the on-board tolling equipment (the so called “GO-Box”) exchanges data with the corresponding roadside equipment using microwave communication.
3. How does tolling interoperability work between Austria and its neighboring countries?
Electronic road charging plays a key role in the implementation of European transport policy. There are approximately 20,000 tolling roadside installations active in Europe and around 35 million on-board units in circulation that use CEN DSRC. The interoperability between Austria and its neighboring countries is secured by an European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) by which road users only subscribe to a single account / contract with one EETS provider in order to pay the charges related to any charging scheme in the whole of Europe that is interoperable with the on-board equipment.
4. How has your experience at Bosch prepared you to work at ASFINAG, focusing on next generation transportation technology?
While in school, I studied engineering physics. Subsequently, at Bosch, I had the great opportunity to extend my knowledge into the automotive sector. I worked at four different sites on two continents and experienced different mobility behaviors. Working for the vehicle industry for some years, I learned a lot about physical sensor limitations, driving functionalities and about the challenges of highly automated driving in various environments. Vehicles, however, are only one part of the complete ecosystem that will enable the next steps towards the initialization of Connected, Automated, Shared and Electric mobility. Road operators in Europe have agreed that understanding the requirements on Infrastructure Supported Automated Driving (ISAD) will be a key element in the roadmap towards the next generation of transportation technology.
5. What do you see as the future of tolling and traffic management systems for ASFINAG and in Europe?
Europe is continuing works on a common strategy for sustainable and smart mobility; this strategy fits to ASFINAG’s vision to connect regions and people in the heart of Europe by being a reliable, innovative and sustainable mobility partner. With our modern toll products and digital information services, we are a customer-oriented service provider.
Digitalization, as was well as cooperation and automation are already transforming the roads industry. The impact and benefits of this digital transformation promotes higher traffic efficiency, a sustainable use of existing road segments, an increase in road safety and the reduction of emissions. The smart application of connectivity leverages the opportunities of digital technologies. Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) are a game changer of mobility.
ASFINAG has recently announced that we are connecting roads with vehicles on a large scale in Europe. Starting from November 2020 on-wards, our highways will be fitted with DSRC equipment to enable a direct exchange of safety-relevant information between the road infrastructure and vehicles. While we will start operation of safety-relevant use cases within the next sixteen months, we already started working on additional Vehicle-to-X (V2X) use cases supporting automated driving and connected traffic management. The involved technologies have been tested and proven for years; several research projects investigated and simulated the individual effects of this direct communication on traffic flow. As the pan-European deployment of V2X / C-ITS on roads and in vehicles starts in 2020, the digital transformation must be further investigated and pursued to realize its full potential.